Tuesday, September 04, 2001

Kroger Classic prepares for move

River's Bend TPC welcomes Seniors starting next year

By Michael Perry
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        MASON — Margie French, tournament director for the Kroger Senior Classic, stood at the first tee Sunday to personally greet each golfer in the 78-man field, say goodbye and “hope to see you next year.”

        “There's not a one who said. "I don't want to go,'” French said.

        Where will they be going? To the Tournament Players Club at River's Bend, the new home of the Kroger, which has been played at The Golf Center at Kings Island since it started in 1990.

        French has been involved with golf tournaments at the Kings Island course — including PGA and LPGA events — for 28 years. After Jim Thorpe captured the Kroger title Sunday with a playoff victory over Tom Jenkins, it was time to move on.

        Next year's Kroger Senior Classic is scheduled for Sept. 2-9; tickets go on sale before Christmas.

        “We've had a good run here and everybody has been very, very nice,” French said. “But we're also excited about going to the new event and starting all over again. It's a good feeling, yet a little sadness.

        “And I am very nervous because there isn't a thing that's set up there for a tournament. There are a lot of unknowns. There's just a challenge to say, "How are we going to do all this?' ”

        Some of the issues to be dealt with over the next year:

        • How to rope off the course for fans;

        • Traffic;

        • Parking.

        “We've been working on next year's (event) for probably the last nine months,” French said. “We've measured every inch up there. I've negotiated some parking on site; I think we can get at least 2,400 cars in there. We might only have to bus on Saturday and Sunday. A half a mile away, there's a church that's willing to give us some space.”

        French expects no changes to the existing course.

        “We're not going to flip-flop holes,” she said. “We're going to play the course as is. Later on, if we find that didn't work, then we will.”

        The Kroger office will move from its Kings Island site Sept. 24 to new space in Lebanon. A month before next year's Kroger, tournament officials will move into a trailer at the TPC course.

        In addition to being recharged herself because of the novelty of playing host to the event at a new site, French said she believes sponsors, fans and players will be re-energized.

        “Having won here, I have a soft spot for Kings Island,” said 1998 champion Hugh Baiocchi. “I do enjoy it here. But I played (at TPC) for the Senior Wives Pro-Am and I liked it very much. It's a nice golf course, very pretty, with some spectacular holes. It might be a little tough for spectators to walk.”

        Said Jim Dent, the 1990 Kroger champ: “Change will do it good. Everybody's going to be happy. We've been at the venue for so long and it grew so much, you need to move to bigger things.”

        Go to Cincinnati.com/golf for coverage of Sunday's final round, an up-close look at River's Bend and local golf coverage.

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